new translations

Stephen H. Phillips phillips at
Wed Nov 29 19:43:48 UTC 1995

On Wed, 29 Nov 1995, Birgit Kellner wrote:

> Presuppose that the translation is one of Navya-Nyaaya-texts, I find the
> first desideratum  difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. How can one
> mirror a syntax which is abundant in nominal compounds and abstract nouns in
> a language which lacks these possibilities? 

Well, it's not so hard to render, in some cases, subjects and predicates
preserving the Sanskrit order and relation.  Shouldn't one do so, other 
things being equal?  Of course, often there can't be much syntactical 

As to the second desideratum -
> how can you be colloquial and clear in English where the original text is
> neither?

I beg to disagree.  Gan;ges;a is often lucid, and maybe not colloquial
but entirely clear.  And when he is not straigtforwardly clear (he is 
after all writing about perception, inference, analogical acquisition of 
vocabulary, and comprehension of what someone says, matters with which we 
all have a direct acquaintance), his thought can be made clear in comments.

 To be precise: The Navya-Naiyyayikas, as much as every other Indian
> philosophical author, addressed an audience which was well-informed about
> their theories - they did not write for the Dhobi-wallah next door, as much
> as modern scholars don't write for their caretakers (I don't mean to sound
> elitist - I just refer to sociolects). Hence, what they wrote was clear to
> those with the same educational background, and might even be called
> "colloquial" in this environment, but, alas, none of this is around anymore.
> When Stephen Phillips refers to a "non-specialist" audience, I take it he
> means philosophers with no training in Sanskrit (correct me, if this is
> wrong). In this case, and especially in the case of Navya-Nyaaya with
> English as a target-language, I would not attempt a translation at all - or
> if, a translation with as few explanations as possible (mainly to clarify,
> to the specialist, how one analyzes the text in detail, or, in case of
> philologically problematic texts, to justify the constitution of the text),
> and a detailled study or interpretation. 
Yes, I have presupposed in my audience some familiarity with the history of
Western philosophy, about that of a junior undergraduate philosophy 
major, and have not presupposed familarity with Indian thought.  But, I 
am sorry, translation for this audience is not so difficult as you make 
out.  Long compounds with an abstract suffix in the ablative or 
instrumental case of course have to be rendered as subordinate clauses 
or the like in English, but I should think it would not be too hard for a 
student of Sanskrit to be able to retrace my renderings of Gan;ges;a; 
there is a correspondence, though not a word-for-word relationality.

I try to restrict using parentheses for true propositional anaphora and
ellipsis.  I use a separate section labelled "Comments" for elaboration 
and presentation of further background.

Probably what I mean by propositional anaphora (paradigmatically, "it" 
used to refer to whole views) is a part of what Kellner means by:
 Just because a textual element is not lexically represented on
> the textual surface doesn't mean it's not a part of the text.

But he probably also means more.  Maybe I shouldn't feel the need for 
parentheses.  However, like everything else, there is a way of using them 

Stephen Phillips

I plan to read in the literature on translation Kellner mentions.  Thank 
you, sir.


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